A/N: so chapter 15 was the end i planned when i came up with this idea and the framing mechanism. This was what i came up with when reading reviews. So, consider it an alternative ending.
16: Mixing Thunders
"Are you sure?" asked Toltiir, elder god, chaos and mischief its specialty.
"Why not?" asked Taylor. "Use that Thrud setup, but mix the Kryptonian and the Saiyajin thing because of the backstory similarity and have it be Ragnarok that destroyed the old world and it should all fit into place."
"Oh, that part is easy enough," admitted The Chaos Kitty. "Mixing things up is where it becomes interesting because it can always go in a different direction."
"Wait, that's the easy part? What's the hard part?" asked Taylor.
"Oh, that's the rest of the surviving Asgardians," said Toltiir. "I suppose Magni or Modi could end up in the Vegita role. Hmmm. Oh, and since the Vicar is no longer here - no wolf fond of soundtracks. I'll arrange something else though."
"Why does that fill me with considerable-"
"-dread!" yelped Taylor as reality shifted.
* PRT ENE HQ, February 22 2011 *
"Lawsuits," grumbled Thrud, who then startled. "What... Never thou mind. Methinks the solution be simple. I withdraw mine protection from any who bring such suit against me."
"I'm not sure that will fly, but it's not like you have any money for them to grab anyway," said Director Piggot.
"Indeed," agreed Thrud. "Mine brothers inherit all and have no solid link to this world anyway."
There was brief silence, followed by Piggot asking the obvious question. "You have brothers?"
"Magni and Modi be their names, brethren of Thrud and not Taylor so they lack a linkage to this world. A pity though as our world was ravaged by Ragnarok. E'en now, they exist as phantoms in the Realm Beyond."
Armsmaster made a curious noise before speaking. "What is involved with this 'linkage'?"
"Ah, that be a difficult thing," said Thrud. "It is much like your parahuman Trigger Event, and yet not. I do not know all the particulars. I am goddess of strength, descended from the God of Thunder and Odin himself, not goddess of wisdom or knowledge. Magni, god of might, is my step-brother from my father and the giantess Jarnsaxa. Modi, god of wrath, is the son of Sif and Thor though many have expressed doubts. Not in the presence of Modi himself of course."
"Why?" asked Armsmaster.
"God of wrath," answered Thrud. "Bit of a temper problem. Also not the sharpest arrow in the quiver."
"Sounds like Lung," said Director Piggot. "I take it there's no chance of him showing up?"
"Very little," said Thrud. "It wouldst require a number of unlikely events, excepting for very short periods. An hour or so at most, I'd think. Again, it be outside mine expertise."
Armsmaster stirred at that. "What about... Endbringer fights?"
"I wouldst have to summon the crows, they would either know or know who to ask," said Thrud.
"'Crows'?" asked Director Piggot.
"Hugin and Munin?" asked Armsmaster. At Director Piggot's look, he further explained. "On finding we were dealing with the Norse mythos, I started looking at references."
"Snorri's recounting of oral tales contains some inaccuracies," indicated Thrud. "Though not entirely inaccurate in others."
"Great," said Director Piggot, muttering mostly under her breath. "A bunch of rowdy ale-swigging Viking gods could come visiting. Will there be a city left standing?"
"Was that you?" asked Armsmaster as distant thunder rumbled.
"I'm not actively doing anything with the weather," said Thrud, frowning. "The Norns may yet have plans."
Two crows flew by the window. The worrying thing was that one of them seemed to wink. And was wearing a tiny little bowler-style hat.
* Dockworker Union Offices. February 23 2011 *
"Huh," said Danny Hebert, noticing a couple of extremely large ravens on the gutter of his office. That one of them was wearing a bowler hat and the other a fake moustache moved it from the normal category rather rapidly. This was a bit much this early in the morning. "Nice hat."
"Thank you," said the raven in a Germanic-sounding accent. "I rather fancy it myself."
"Thrud is in Arcadia right now," guessed Danny Hebert as to WHY two ravens would be here.
"Quick," said the non-hatted Raven. "Like that. So many people would be going on and on about the hat or talking birds. Freaking out or denying that we were here."
"So many mortals have a fragile mindset," agreed the hatted raven.
"Hugin and Mugin, I take it?" guessed Danny Hebert.
"Oh, I like him," said the hatless one. "Cleverer by far than average."
"To be fair," said the hatted one, "that is a pretty low bar."
"Can I help you with something?" asked Danny Hebert.
"Well, while we wait for Thrud to leave school, if it wouldn't be too remiss - I believe your cafeteria will be having corn-on-the-cob during lunch?" asked the hatless one. "Hugin I be, Daniel Hebert."
"Oooh, nice buttered corn-on-the-cob?" asked the hatted one. "Munin am I. Well met, mortal father of Thrud. Or Taylor as she was and is."
"Thought and Memory, right?" asked Danny.
"Indeed, indeed, survived Ragnarok we did, though Odin fell as was foretold," said Munin.
"He was a pretty good boss, lasted longer than most," said Hugin.
"We mainly work in what you would call Intel," said Munin. "Spies. Heralds. Scouts. That sort of thing."
"I see. What about Freke and Gere?" asked Danny.
"They stick around Modi mainly, they're one of the few who can talk him down when he's in a rage," said Hugin.
"Had to give you a word though," said Munin. "Word is - trouble coming. Coming soon. Gonna need an assist."
"That's where we come in, we think," said Hugin.
"You 'think'?" asked Danny.
"It's prophecies and that kind of shit," said Munin. "Never just come out and tell you, they got to put it in some fancy wording that leaves you guessing what's going. I think it's their union rules or something."
"Asgard has unions?" asked Danny, a bit surprised.
"Kind of, I think 'union' is the closest translation," said Munin.
* Asgard *
"Huh, Little Sis has found a place on Midgard."
"Is that so?"
"Getting into fights with Nazis too."
"What's a 'Not-Zee'?"
"Well, that's good then. Maybe she could save a few for me."
"I'll check and see how difficult - hey, Forseti! You're better at this math stuff than I am. How much of a problem would it be to connect to that version of Midgard that Little Sis is in."
"What are you two... oh. It'd have to be a temporary one. You'd only have an hour or so before you get yanked back unless you found a way to anchor like Thrud did."
"How did she do it?"
"Some Eldritch Thing From Beyond gave her mechanism for connecting with some trauma victim on one of the Midgards. I wonder if they have ale. Haven't had a good ale in years."
"It's okay, we all know you got that temper problem."
"Well, let me check. I think we can get a short transport going."
"You too, Forseti?"
"Oh, I'm not going. I'm just looking forward to an hour of peace and quiet."
"You are such an optimist, Forseti."
"I try, Magni. I try."
"I've got a meeting with the Stevedore's Guild in ten. When you know more let me know."
* Orbit, February 24, 2011 *
The Simurgh knew she was supposed to attack. She knew it was her turn. She knew what the target was.
She was a precog. Though the future was clouded, she could foresee a lot of pain in her future.
She did not want to go, but she had no choice.
* Canberra *
"Where's that music coming from?" asked Armsmaster.
"What's the song?" asked Miss Militia.
"Software lists it as 'Kiss - God of Thunder'... oh."
"Ah," said Miss Militia.
She strode past the Brockton Bay group, tall, hair whipping like a red banner behind her as she put the iron gauntlets on.
"Wind speed increased from 10mph to 45mph," noted Armsmaster. "Cloud cover increased from 'Mostly Sunny' to 'Storm Warning' - evacuation of area continuing."
"Simurgh ETA in five minutes 25 seconds. Simurgh has slowed considerably since intial departure from orbit. Reason for anomaly unknown," said Dragon's voice over the bracelets handed out to everyone.
"Possibility that the weather plays a part?" asked Miss Militia.
Armsmaster shook his head slightly. "Weather hasn't mattered so far with any of the Endbringers. Might be Thrud's presence though as she's not a parahuman and therefore is an unknown variable."
"Because the Endbringers have only faced parahumans before," concluded Miss Militia, her power manifesting a high-powered sniper rifle.
"Possibly, information on the Endbringers has been mostly speculation and is subject to change," said Armsmaster as he watched lightning crawl from cloud to cloud.
"I'd be wary about flying into that," said a nearby voice.
Armsmaster glanced that way. "Glory Girl."
"Honestly that video of what happened to Hookwolf makes me very glad that she's an ally," said Glory Girl.
Armsmaster essayed a rare genuine, if tentative, smile. "'Smited'."
"They made t-shirts with that slogan," said Glory Girl. "It's almost as if Hookwolf wasn't very popular or something."
Miss Militia nodded, having seen two designs. One simply had an image of the hammer and the word. The other had a stylized wolf being hit by lightning. Parian had produced them through a cut-out for charity and even people who normally didn't wear t-shirts had bought a copy.
A hammer began to whirl around at the end of a heavy-looking strap.
"One minute to Simurgh arrival," announced Dragon over the bracelets. "Alpha Team, ready. Thrud has requested opening strike. Permission granted. Eidolon and Legend ETA one minute thirty-seven seconds."
"I think everyone who isn't capable of seeing the big lightning strike being prepared is in serious need of glasses," quipped Glory Girl as the air itself seemed to get heavy.
"Good lord, what was that?!" asked a nearby cape.
"Seven lightning bolts firing simultaneously at the Simurgh," said Armsmaster as his suit's systems fed him the data. "Two were intercepted via her telekinetic debris ring."
"All ranged attackers, fire now," said Dragon's voice over the bracelets.
"That was Mjolnir hitting once going forward, where it was deflected by a wing, then striking the Simurgh in the back of the head on the rebound," commented Armsmaster.
Then the battle was joined in full.
* Hebert Home *
He'd glimpsed the figure in the mirror four or five times now. It had started out a barely there impression of fur and metal and massive thews. Now, while he was worried about Taylor in her first Endbringer fight, he could see the figure clearly.
Massive, muscular, and looking tough enough that if an Endbringer tried to eat him it would probably choke in the process. Red hair tinged with bits of grey. He didn't need to see a hammer to know who this was.
"Thor Odinson," said Danny Hebert. "You're worried about her too."
The mirror image nodded once.
"Part of being a father, that's universal," said Danny. "Some things are the same if you're some dead Viking thunder god or a Dockworker Union head."
There was agreement in the other's face.
"Only thing to do," said Danny as he held a beer up in salute to the image, who faded a moment later.
Danny thought the way the guy's beard was the last thing to fade was actually a nice touch.
* Canberra *
Thrud walked through the crowd of capes, hammer held high as she exchanged pleasantries in the post-Simurgh battle. Everyone was either grieving for those lost or exulting in having survived. A few, scattered among the crowd, were a bit of both of course.
"Well fought, everyone!" shouted out Thrud. "Mourn our losses, celebrate our survival, and patch our wounds as best we may. Tomorrow we may fight, today we are allies who have spent blood and sweat in battle against a foe to all!"
There was some ragged cheers and sounds of assent.
Eidolon floated down to place himself in Thrud's path. "You."
"Me?" asked Thrud, noting that the other had chosen to hover slightly in order to look taller than her. "Twas an honor to fight alongside the famed Triumvirate, or at least two of thee. Was Alexandria unable to attend?"
"This isn't about her," said Eidolon. "It's about you."
"Me? I thought we worked well together for the most part," said Thrud after a moment. "What is thine problem?"
"My problem is a new cape coming in and acting like she's a big deal," said Eidolon. "My problem is that you're not used to working with a team and it shows. My problem is that we know next to nothing about you except that ridiculous story you peddle."
"What 'ridiculous story'?" asked Thrud.
"This whole goddess fabrication you came up with," retorted Eidolon.
Thrud considered the cape in front of her for a moment. "Why art thou acting the dick?"
"I'm not the dick here, you're the dick!" responded Eidolon, sounding irate.
There was silence immediately following that.
"Thou could have phrased that a bit better, I think," said Thrud.
"Shut up! You know what I meant," said Eidolon, reaching out and trying to push Thrud.
Who just stood there and watched Eidolon push himself away. Thrud cocked her head a bit. "Art thou... trying to flirt with me?"
"Oh crap," came a distant comment from Legend who'd just noted something going on as the resulting silent moment was sufficiently silent that the exclamation carried.
Eidolon recovered and fired a blast point-blank into the puzzled-looking Thrud's face.
Thrud bounced twice before landing on a section of ground near the medical tent, Mjolnir landing a few feet away.
A hand twitched, the hammer slapped into that hand. Thrud stood. "Well then. If 'tis a battle thou dost crave -"
Another blast slammed into her, the corona of the blast ripping the tent behind her. This time though she weathered the assault and only slid backwards a foot or two.
Thrud spat a drop of blood to the side, eyes narrowed as lightning arced off of her and into the ground. "Besmirch mine honor, callest me a liar? I say thee NAY!"
People scrambled to get out of their way but the video was going out live from a number of capes wearing cameras, so...
* CNN *
"We have our cape commenter Spartacus here. Spartacus, do you have any idea why Eidolon is being such a dick?"
"Well, Kyle, sometimes passions run a bit high after a life-and-death battle. Sometimes you just want to find a quiet spot and get a handle on how close you came to death, and sometimes you just need to work off the adrenalin. I think that's part of it. On the other hand, Eidolon just attacked a new cape during an Endbringer Truce. Not only did he do that, he didn't decisively win that fight."
"Well, Thrud may be crazy and claim to be some goddess that nobody'd ever heard of - she certainly has some serious grab bag of powers."
"I'm not sure she's crazy, Kyle. She's not a parahuman."
"You're going to tell me she's descended from a pagan deity? Come on, Spartacus, get serious here."
"She's not a parahuman. Panacea testified when the PRT investigated and forced her to disclose medical records. They had hoped to disprove her claims. She lacks either brain add-ons that define being a parahuman. ALL parahumans have those two areas. She doesn't. Parahumans typically don't come with their own equipment - if they do it's a projection from their powers like Miss Militia has. That's getting away from Eidolon breaking an Endbringer Truce in order to fight someone who hasn't been on the cape scene for very long. About a month, right?"
"She had that little premiere a month ago, yes, and is already a heavy hitter on the Simurgh. Can someone roll that video again? Yeah, thank you. There's just something satisfying about seeing someone smack the Simurgh in the head with a lightning-infused hammer hard enough that the Simurgh flipped end-over-end."
"Heh. 'Smited.' Wonder if Hookwolf saw that and realized how easily he'd gotten off."
"I've seen that meme. I've also seen the picture of her putting on those gauntlets and the 'Don't make me put my Nazi-smiting gloves on' meme."
"I wonder if she has. Anyway, as a medically-retired cape, I do have to wonder if there will be some fallout from Eidolon breaking truce like that. Things tend to get tense between capes anyway, even capes on the same side often have numerous issues with other capes. Politics, philosophies, fandoms, personal histories, religions - capes have all the same issues that non-capes do and you throw them into high-stress high-risk situations like an Endbringer fight so it could easily end up as major skirmishes as soon as the common enemy retreats."
* Protectorate HQ *
Contessa clicked off the remote.
There was a moment of silence.
Eidolon cleared his throat. "Uhm."
Contessa held up a hand. "Was this a result of your Agent?"
"I don't know... maybe?" answered Eidolon.
"She's stronger than you, Alexandria, when she's wearing that belt and gloves," said Legend. "When she was hitting the Simurgh I wasn't nearby but I could feel the shockwaves in the air. She's VERY strong."
"I was able to get a blood sample from when you were fighting her," said Doctor Mother. "Initial results indicate she is not human. Some alien species that briefly interacted with Norse tribesmen and gave rise to the legends of Thor and such seems likely. Did you get a good look at any of her items?"
"He got a very good look at that hammer," commented Legend.
"Did you notice anything special about it?" asked Doctor Mother.
Eidolon scowled some more.
"He got hit in the face with that hammer. Twice." Legend held up two fingers to emphasize. "Also punched in the stomach with a fist wearing an iron gauntlet when he tried to hold onto it."
Eidolon looked distinctly unhappy at that memory.
"If Panacea hadn't been on hand, we wouldn't have a Triumvirate anymore - because we'd be down a member," said Legend. "Seriously, you KNEW how hard she could hit and there was still a lot of storm clouds overhead. If I hadn't been there to talk her down she'd have hit you with a tornado at the very least."
"If his Agent was trying to get information about Thrud, then that would make sense. Being able to contribute to the extent she did with so little experience indicates some serious potential," postulated Doctor Mother.
"Can we get back to what you were saying about how she's stronger than ME?" asked Alexandria, still a bit put off about that line.
"I've been nearby when you're going full out," said Legend. "When she started slamming him into the ground like a terrier with a new chew toy? I could see the ground fracturing and some of the nearby vehicles were literally bouncing into the air. Armored vehicles. Only about a foot off the ground but it was concerning for the people who can't fly."
"Brute 12," offered Contessa. "With her equipment. Without it, you are stronger."
"Ah," said Alexandria, clearly mollified. "Wasn't my point."
There were quite a few shared glances at that, but no one commented.
"I wonder if those power boost items would work for me?" asked Alexandria a moment later. On seeing the look from Legend she appended her statement. "Just curious."
* Asgard *
"I just checked on Thrud. Did you know she's fighting giant monsters that prey upon the Midgardians?" asked Forseti of the two brothers.
"What? Damn. Little Sis is having all the fun," grumped Modi.
Magni nodded, looking at the paperwork on his desk with a frown. "She's certainly getting use out of those knock-off versions. Dwarves did a good job."
"We're a freaking lot more fair in business with them and they're a whole lot less likely to sell us crap." Forseti shrugged. "They've expressed an interest in some of the things they've seen in Midgard too."
"Even if it's just an hour?"
"Sounds like the start of a quest to a lot of them."
"Huh. They got a point."
* Docks. March 7, 2011 *
"What, exactly, is that?" asked Zephron, jerking a thumb over his shoulder at something he could have sworn wasn't there the day before.
"It's a stone archway decorated with Norse runes," said Gunther Mills, one of the senior mechanics. "One minute it wasn't there. Next minute it was. Figure it's something to do with Thrud."
"Have to ask her after she gets back from school," reasoned Zephron. "At least it's out of the way."
"Well, that's something else to mention to Danny when he gets in," said Gunther.
"Why? What else is going on?" asked Zephron.
"Did you see that PRT wagon coming in?" asked Gunther. "PRT has a subpeona out to put Thrud into Master/Stranger confinement and seize her equipment. Apparently she repeatedly came into contact with the Simurgh."
"She was smacking the Simurgh around. That's what she's supposed to do in an Endbringer fight, isn't it?" asked Zephron.
"Checked into it, apparently it's all legal, and also apparently Piggot objected a lot, finally got told to do it or they'd replace her," said Gunther.
Zephron considered that for a moment before he made a disgusted noise. "Politics."
Gunther nodded. "Danny's going to have to ask a few lawyer friends to see what can be done. That van's here to take her into custody."
"That... could go badly very very quickly," said Zephron.
"We're not supposed to deviate from normal activity per the twits in charge, but I made sure everyone has their escape routes planned and can drop everything and make a run for it," explained Gunther. "Don't want anyone caught in the crossfire or be held hostage for her good behavior."
* PRT ENE HQ *
Emily Piggot looked over the local Protectorate. "I don't like this. I don't like this one bit. Thrud has so far cooperated with us with only minor complaints. This could go wrong so fast it isn't even slightly funny."
There was a pause as everyone expected Assault to say something at this point.
Assault shook his head. "What? I'm dreading that I'm being thrown into a fight with someone who could bench press this building unless she agrees to be taken into a custody I'm not sure is legal in the first place."
"This could set a VERY bad precedent if people aren't willing to fight an Endbringer because they could end up facing similar measures for just participating," agreed Miss Militia.
"There was no indication of Simurgh-influenced behavior following the battle, and her time within proximity to the Simurgh was below the indicated threshold for mental corruption," indicated Armsmaster.
"These orders come all the way from the top," said Emily Piggot.
"That's right," said someone else, coming into the room.
"Tagg?" asked Director Piggot.
"Here's the updated orders," said Director Tagg. "You were reluctant so I have been given command. We're attacking Winslow school while she's in civilian identity."
"Two problems. The Unwritten Rules state-" began Armsmaster.
"Unwritten and ignorable in this case," said Director Tagg. "Thrud is powerful enough that all options are on the table."
Emily Piggot sat back after reading the orders, thought for a moment, then gave a smile that had very little humor involved. "Very well. I'm going to dialysis early today since you're taking over. I am officially washing my hands of this debacle."
"You didn't have the nerve for this operation anyway," said Tagg, pulling out a phone. "Here's my plan for attack."
* Winslow *
Wei Ling considered himself up-and-coming, certain that he would be able to join the ABB as soon as he got out of this school. He was strong and ruthless, was a decent shot, and could certainly follow orders as long as it came from someone he could respect. He did not respect the school authorities.
His two underlings, proof of his skills needed to bring to the ABB, were simply enjoying the time-honored tradition of skipping a boring class in order to smoke. Their choice of location was well-chosen for that purpose, behind the graffiti-festooned bus stop where they could keep an eye out for anything that might be considered a problem.
Three PRT armored cars coming in was puzzling, but he sent out a text to the other potential gang members to indicate authorities arriving. There was no indication they'd have anything to do with themselves after all, and could well be after the local Nazi scum.
Three squads loaded with what looked like containment foam sprayers ran into the building. Wei heard a few screams, the "shoosh" sound of sprayers spraying. More screams. More shooshing. What sounded like containment foam grenades going off. Someone yelling quite loudly.
A redheaded girl bolted from one of the other doors and was hit by a different sprayer.
Wei made mental notes at this development. Tinker product, maybe? Sprayer shot some sort of off-white material which quickly flowed around the target, making what looked like the sort of coccoon you found in some trees in the spring. Wei looked at the results, noting that the binding only extended so far from the point of impact. This left the feet and lowest part of the legs free but everything else was bound.
The reason was obvious to Wei, which he felt merely proved his potential worth to the ABB. A target restrained by such means could be picked up and thrown in the back of a van. Much more useful if a gang were to get ahold of some, as opposed to containment foam which just covered everything and was a mess to clean up.
The remaining troopers just watched the exits for anyone else escaping.
Wei watched, made notes, and planned. Though if he could get one of those restraint-launchers, that would probably get him into the gang immediately.
Providing Lung didn't eat him for asking for too much. There were stories about that sort of thing.
* PRT ENE HQ *
"What do you mean she's not at Winslow?" Tagg demanded.
"I tried to explain several times," pointed out Armsmaster. "Winslow expedited her paperwork transferring her to Arcadia."
"She did this just to avoid legal arrest!" concluded Tagg.
"Actually it was felt if she remained in Winslow, a number of students would do something that would see a large number of them dealing getting hit by lightning. Or thrown out windows." Armsmaster considered his notes for a moment. "Among other issues."
Tagg ignored him and immediately rung up the commanding officer. "Get those trucks over to Arcadia. She's hiding there."
"Actually, she's probably having lunch," put in Armsmaster. "Usually with Glory Girl and a number of the Wards."
"Anyone with her needs to be thrown into Master/Stranger confinement," barked out Tagg.
"There's no indication that Thrud has any sort of Master or Stranger ability," pointed out Armsmaster.
"Roll out... The Destroyer," said Tagg.
"That sounds... ominous," offered Miss Militia.
"Excuse me, sir. What is 'The Destroyer'?" asked Armsmaster.
"A way to deal with uppity capes," said Tagg, a gleam in his eyes.
"Very ominous," appended Miss Militia.
* Arcadia *
"Orders are orders," grumbled Lieutenant Dickson.
"We're actually going to use that? In a SCHOOL?" asked Sergeant Novik. She made a gesture towards the third transport.
"Those are the orders," said Lieutenant Dickson, clearly unhappy about that himself.
"Well, shit," griped Corporal Paolini.
"Going on record protesting this decision," said Sergeant Novik.
Practically everyone else in the squad agreed with that.
"Noted and on record," said Lieutenant Dickson. He shook his head. "This could go so wrong, so fast."
"Are WE safe from it?" asked Trooper Wilhelm. "I mean, a Tinker-built autonomous combat machine originally meant for Endbringer fights? That we HOPE was reprogrammed correctly?"
"Not helping," noted the already nervous Corporal Paolini.
Lieutenant Dickson keyed the panel. "Destroyer. Activate. Target: Thrud Thorsdottir, aka Taylor Hebert. May be in the company of non-aligned parahumans. Capture target. Repeat back."
The three-meter tall robot slid itself out of the armored car, standing to its full height. It considered the troopers before it, noting they appeared agitated and nervous. "Orders rejected. Evidence of Master effect. Kill affected parahumans. Engaging."
"Oh shi-" managed Lieutenant Dickson before he was swatted to the side and the lumbering figure bowled through the remaining troopers on its way towards the school.
* Arcadia *
She was quite aware of her identity being public. She was well over six feet in height, her hair was now a brilliant red shot through with gold, she had quite defined muscle, and she normally did not wear a mask. The Unwritten Rules though - meant that most people ignored that and spoke as if Thrud and Taylor were different people.
"How you can eat all that," complained Mandy.
Taylor looked at her loaded-down lunchtray and shrugged. "Growing girl."
"You have a very efficient metabolism," said Amy Dallon, making a gesture with a french fry.
"What kind of fish is this anyway?" asked Victoria, picking at her plate.
"Flounder," said Taylor with confidence after a bite. "Tasty."
There was a distant crashing sound.
"What the heck?" asked Vicky, fork halfway to her mouth.
The crashing sound repeated.
The PA crackled to life. "Attention all students. Attention all-"
Silence followed another crash. Lights flickered and went off at the same time.
"This does not bode well," summed up Amy.
"I'll go check," said Vicky, lifting off and flying out the door.
"I must agree with th- you, Amy," said Taylor, giving a forlorn look to the remains of her meal.
Vicky Dallon re-entered the room, flying very quickly and quite obviously not under her own power. She struck a wall and went down like a ragdoll.
Amy was up in a flash and running towards her sister when the corridor-filling metal form tore through the concrete and metal of the doorframe like wet tissue paper.
Her hammer slapped into her hand and her costume appeared around her in little electrical flashes.
"Target acquired," said the armored robot.
"I could say the same," answered Thrud, moving towards the center of the room and away from the people now hugging the wall.
"Priming missiles," intoned the Destroyer. "Lau-"
Thrud had already grabbed the robot and was shoving it outside as fast as she could.
* Dialysis Office *
"WHAT is that idiot doing?" asked Emily Piggot.
"Using some Tinker-tech seized in a raid to assault a school in which the Wards and two members of New Wave attend, with the idea of demonstrating his power?" asked Doctor Stantz.
"No. This is a diversion," said ex-Director Piggot. "Though it is a diversion that's going to get a LOT of people very very pissed off at the PRT."
"A diversion?" asked Doctor Stantz.
"He's used similar tactics before, use something loud to get everyone's attention while he goes after his actual objective. Problem is he had no problem with large numbers of casualties accomplishing either," said Piggot.
"Ah," said Doctor Stantz. "So, what do you think his real objective is?"
"Got a computer that can access the internet?" asked Piggot. On seeing his nod, she continued. "Check BB511 dot com. See a lot of exclamation points?"
"Yes, there's some at Winslow, some at Arcadia, two on the interstate, and two more over in a residential area. Wildbow Avenue."
"Wildbow Avenue. Click that."
"Says gas main leak. Avoid area."
"Check the Hebert address, should be in PRT secure files."
The Doctor checked. "2011 Wildbow... Avenue."
"He's going after her father to use as a hostage," said Piggot. "Predictable."
"He's willing to risk civilian casualties in order to arrest her father in order to use him as a hostage?" asked Doctor Stantz. "And I thought my friend Doctor Venkmaan could be irresponsible."
"Doctor Spengler was worse," said Piggot. "And yes - James Tagg is exactly the sort who would call that acceptable losses."
* Arcadia *
(WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!)
Taking the fight outside the school had been the first priority. Away from other students and things like load-bearing walls. Then to the street outside where people had a chance to see what was happening and get away.
Third was to try and put the robot down fast. That part wasn't working quite so well.
The Tinker-metal armor plates were tough, even to her. The thing was also spraying her with fist-sized missiles, machine-gun fire, and trying to use metal tentacles to reduce her mobility. She'd already broken off a buzzsaw on an extending arm, a diamond-tipped drill on a tentacle, and pinched shut a gas dispenser of some kind.
"Tyr's blood, you are so annoying," growled Thrud as she brought Mjolnir around to crush a device before she could see what the heck it was.
(WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!)
Without her belt and gauntlets, she was not at full power. Taking them out and putting them on would take time she was not being given.
Glory Girl was now joining in.
(Voop! Voop!) went two emotion blasts which weren't very effective against a robot.
Huh. At least two of the Wards had just shown up and were attempting to do something.
With Glory Girl's help, she was finally able to get enough breathing space to pull off the chest plate and crush the mechanisms underneath. The robot died abruptly. Came back alive for a moment, requiring more parts to be forcibly removed, then died a final time.
"Taylor Hebert. We have your father. He will be interrogated until you surrender to legal authorities."
Thrud stared at the officer with the bullhorn. "What?"
"For destruction of public property, resisting arrest, use of potential Master abilities, destruction of PRT property, truancy, jaywalking, and attempted murder - you are under arrest," declared the trooper. "By order of Director James Tagg, surrender immediately."
"What?" repeated Taylor, echoed a second later by Glory Girl, a fair number of those recording this on their cellphones, the two wards (Gallant and Clockblocker) and a few of the drivers who'd abandoned their cars and only started back when the fighting had ended.
"If you surrender it is not an admission of guilt," stated the trooper.
"This is not April the First, is it?" Thrud asked Glory Girl.
"Nay, I mean, no," said Glory Girl, adjusting her costume where she'd dressed in a big hurry. "This is bizarre."
"Glory Girl, you will have to surrender until your status as a potential Master victim is resolved," said the trooper.
"What?" asked Glory Girl.
"What?!" repeated an awful lot of onlookers.
"Hey, give me a break," yelled the trooper, not using the bullhorn for this part. "I'm just following orders."
"Aren't you supposed to be the good guys?" asked one of the other students.
"We'll be checking students who have come into contact with Miss Hebert for potential Master influence. Please stand by. We'll be... no. Don't run. Form an orderly... damnit. Someone stop them!"
* Taylor Residence, March 12, 2011 *
Danny Hebert sighed and sat down in front of the mirror. "I know."
The image in the mirror, a ghostly image of some bearded Viking, merely gazed back.
"Yes, I could accept the offer and free Taylor," said Danny. "What would come afterwards is my concern."
The image shifted slightly, then nodded.
"For that matter, Taylor could free herself," said Danny. "She could break herself out of confinement except this guy Tagg would push that as a sign she was guilty."
The Viking in the mirror made a gesture that somehow conveyed picking a flea out of the air and crushing it with some satisfaction.
"No, I don't think killing him would help. Not that much anyway. That would be a Birdcage sentence for both of us. And before you suggest that, if we broke out there would be others who would escape too and the majority of people in there nobody wants escaping." Danny sighed.
The image of the Viking made a gesture that indicated grudging agreement.
"Carol Dallon is still trying to get Glory Girl and Panacea out of lockout. She blames Taylor, despite it being the PRT who is doing all this."
The mirror Viking shrugged.
"I understand. Your thing is that you've got a hammer and all your problems look like nails to you."
The mirror Viking shrugged a little but also nodded a moment later, giving the impression he'd heard that before and would like to deny it but had to admit it was true.
"You can convey a lot with a shrug," said Danny.
The Viking shrugged, indicating it was just something he had practice with.
* PRT NY Master/Stranger Confinement, Level 6 *
"How long am I going to be held here?!" demanded Thrud of the ceiling.
"I'm pretty sure that by now it counts as illegal imprisonment," tried Thrud, not for the first time.
Still no answer, unless you counted one of the security cameras making a slight whirring noise.
"How about some books besides this crap?" asked Taylor. "Seriously? Psychological journals about transference, delusions, and paranoia? How is it paranoia when you've got me locked up in a featureless room with zero privacy thanks to four freaking cameras, a half-mile underground, and the only literature I can get to pass the time that you'll give me either declare that gods were created as an opiate of the masses, psych journals about things like Munchhausen's Syndrome, and a book by some hack I've never heard of let alone talked to who says I admitted the whole 'goddess of strength' thing was to make money. I'm not making any money, I never talked to this guy, and I want a freaking lawyer to go after the bastard."
Her rising voice during that rant echoed in the room slightly as she tried to get her temper back into control.
"Are you actively TRYING to make me go villain?"
* Cauldron HQ *
"Okay, belt on. Gloves on. Now let me see that hammer."
"Okay, I felt that. Apparently the hammer doesn't like being picked up. Good thing we used remote Tinkertech to move it here through a Door. Well, it better get used to it. I am Alexandria! The NEW goddess of thunder!"
"Ow. I mean, is that the best you can do?"
"Oooh. My costume is burning. I'm claiming these powers through right of conquest! Submit to me!"
"Uhm, Miss Alexandria? The skies outside have turned black and the clouds overhead are rotating?"
"What is that supposed to mean? What do you mean a tornado? We're nowhere near-"
* Parahuman Response Team ENE HQ *
"This new cape, Bakuda, what can you tell me about her?"
"Area effect specialist who thinks she specializes in bombs," answered Armsmaster.
"Clarify, she does grenades - so why did you suggest something else?" asked Tagg.
"Area effect includes crystalization of organic life forms, paralysis, liquification of solids, and the surprisingly effective chocolate pudding grenade," said Armsmaster. "Using terms like grenades or bombs suggest she is restricted to explosives. She is not."
"'Chocolate pudding grenade'?" asked Tagg, massaging his head as if he had a headache coming up.
"Restricted movement in and out of the area, humiliating her opponent at the time and inspiring sales of pictures of three Wards being deluged in the substance," said Armsmaster.
"Also made it clear that she was completely able to kill them at a moment's notice but apparently considered them beneath her notice," said Miss Militia.
"Any other business?" asked Tagg. Several hands shot up. "In that case, dismissed."
* March 14, 2011 *
The Ruby Dreams casino was far from a Vegas-style casino. There were no shows, no restaurant, no other legal options to entice those who weren't there for the gambling.
Oh, there were prostitutes and strippers and a few junkies and their trade. There were pachinko machines and backroom gambling in everything from cockroach-racing to shogi and mahjong. There were the expected slot machines and roulette wheels and blackjack tables. There were, for those in the know, services that could be acquired that skirted legal.
It was just outside the boundaries of Brockton Bay, not owned but frequented by the ABB, and considered a frequent destination for both ambulance and police drivers due to various "overindulgences" that would happen there.
The PRT had the address because a parahuman Brute 3 named Gristle had five years ago gotten completely blitzed and started flipping cars in the parking lot. He'd ended up sent to a regular prison where he remained.
It now was being reported to the PRT because the Undersiders had just robbed the place.
By the time Armsmaster got through traffic, the Undersiders had been gone for over an hour.
* PRT NY Master/Stranger Confinement, Level 6 *
Taylor/Thrud stopped scratching a rune into the walls of her cell with her thumbnail, the material tough enough that most Brutes wouldn't be able to do anything like that - but she wasn't most Brutes.
Thrud looked around. "Damnit. I just missed something on the outside, didn't I? You guys really need to stop the psych evals and let me out before something nasty happens."
There was, of course, no answer. Though another psychiatric evaluation was planned. The verdict had already been determined, of course. It was just that it had to be documented as to time and place.
"And what was with some book by Von Daniken? I wanted a marker so I could make corrections."
* May 13, 2011 *
"Dragon. Endbringer analysis program is showing a 97.241% chance of Leviathan hitting Brockton Bay within the week. Do you concur?"
There was a brief pause before Dragon's voice came over the line. "Confirm at this end."
Colin nodded, flicked a couple of switches, then sent messages with that information out. The Mayor would get one, Director Tagg another, Rebecca Costa-Brown a third, and a fourth to the secure site set up specifically for Endbringer Watch. He got an acknowledgement from the Mayor, asking for details when available and when a specific date could be released. Director Tagg took five minutes and ordered him to verify claim and sit on the information until it could be verified. Costa-Brown was two minutes after he'd sent, acknowledging and would get back with a report from her own Thinkers. Endbringer Watch indicated they'd already had a precog confirm and would be moving ahead.
Armsmaster sent off a further message to Costa-Brown, pointing out that weather-control powers and the application of a large hammer to Leviathan might help. There was no reply on that one.
* May 14, 2011*
"The Mayor wants to know what's going on." said Director Tagg. "Why was he contacted?"
"Standard procedure in the manual," stated Armsmaster.
"Consider yourself under official reprimand," said Director Tagg. "You go through me. I have already told the Mayor it was a false alarm. We are not having an Endbringer alarm on MY watch."
Armsmaster considering throwing his resignation down on the desk. He didn't, but he did think sincerely about the possibility.
"Do you understand?" asked Director Tagg.
* PRT HQ *
"What is that idiot doing?" asked Rebecca Costa-Brown as she read the e-mail.
Dragon's voice spoke over the intercom. "Prediction within three days time is 98% chance of attack on Brockton Bay."
The Chief Director of the Parahuman Response Team considered her options. "Begin procedure for release of Taylor Hebert."
"I don't have access to that," confessed Dragon, still over the intercom.
"Not you, that was another line," said the Chief Director. "I have a feeling we'll need all the assets we can bring to the table."
* May 15, 2011 *
The image in the mirror was stronger and clearer than ever.
Danny Hebert looked out at the deepening storm clouds, hearing the Endbringer sirens go, and considered.
He wasn't sure how well this would work out, but with Taylor still away in some PRT prison, he thought his choices came down to escaping as best he could - or take the offer.
If the first, the Docks would be gone and many people he'd worked with would be dead. Due to the Mayor cancelling the alert, apparently because the PRT had declared the earlier alert to be someone making a programming mistake, evacuations had stopped. They were now on again but the roads were pretty much impassable.
"I don't really believe a god, or gods, even if Taylor is now one. I don't have any use for religion. Now though. Now I accept the offer."
The Viking image in the mirror stuck a hand out. There was a cool slippery feel to his hand briefly as Danny Hebert took that hand.
* PRT ENE HQ *
"Where the hell is that music coming from?" said Director Tagg. "It sounds like power metal. I hate power metal."
Over the city the music played. ( Sabaton - Twilight Of The Thunder God)
"There is Fenris' twin, his jaws are open wide
The serpent rises from the waves
Jormungandr twists and turns, mighty in his wrath
The eyes are full of primal hate."
"Someone find a way to turn it off!" demanded Director Tagg.
* Hebert Household *
As he transformed, as he felt the spirit of a dead god move through him to give a sort of life to the other however briefly, Danny Hebert made his way outside his house. He could hear the music, echoing from various houses and he knew what the chorus was.
And he felt POWERFUL and full of a bit of righteous wrath himself.
"THOR, Odin's son, protector of mankind!
Ride to meet your fate, your destiny awaits!
Thor, Hlodyn's son, protector of mankind!
Ride to meet your fate, Ragnarok awaits!"
Danny Hebert, Thor, put out a hand. The first Mjolnir, still bearing scars from the acid of the first Midgard Serpent, prepared to take on this lesser namesake.
Though the Thor part of him tsked briefly as he knew well his mother preferred the name Jord.
* Asgard *
"He did WHAT?"
"Wait, is that allowing him to stabilize himself on Midgard? Could WE do that?"
"Well, yeah. It would be even more stable since we aren't dead. Which kind of makes that..."
"As soon as you figure it out, do it. As long as the host is willing."
* Brockton Bay *
Leviathan came charging in, finding an inordinate number of capes prepared to fight. It didn't matter though - as they would swiftly-
Which was when a hammer came streaking in so fast it left a fiery trail behind it, smacked Leviathan in the head hard enough that Leviathan's forward momentum was stopped, and flew back to a section of the docks.
"Enough thou paltry worm! Turn aside or face the wrath of a father wronged! For Earth! For ASGAAAARD!"
Thrud landed. "Dad? Thrud's Dad? Both Dads?!"
"Yea, tis temporary though, yet now tis time for some father-daughter bonding I thinks!"
Thrud grinned at that. "It's smiting time!"
"Indeed! Who be with us!"
It surprised several of the capes that in addition to a number of their own - there were a fair number of dock workers who suddenly looked VERY capable that were shouting agreement to that.
That Leviathan suddenly looked uncertain and concerned gave great heart to those assembled to fight.
"HAVE AT THEE!" declared Thor/Danny Hebert. And the battle began.
Yeah, that's a good place to stop.